Userfocus Usability Newsletter, August 2009

Welcome to the August edition of the Userfocus usability newsletter.

Message from the Editor

This month, I want to ask you a favour.

For some time, we’ve been thinking about adding a commenting system to our web site. People often email us about a specific article we’ve published and this frequently evolves into an interesting e-mail discussion. For a while now, we’ve wanted to make these discussions more widely available but been discouraged by the difficulties of integrating a commenting system into our web site — and also by the number of poor quality comments that we see on other sites (you know the kind of thing: “Hey, great article! Check out my web site at this link!”). After several discussions, some paper prototyping, and a usability test, we've come up with one that seems to meet our technical and usability requirements. It survived a “soft launch” a few weeks ago and now we'll see how it scales up as more people start using it.

That’s where you come in. We now have over 50 user experience articles on our web site but very few of them have any comments because the commenting system is so new. On some pages you can almost hear the tumbleweed blowing through. We want to seed each article with a sensible, intelligent comment and we know that subscribers to our newsletter — people like you — are just the sensible, intelligent types we need. So if you’ve enjoyed — or hated — any of the articles we’ve published over the last few years, please visit our site and leave a comment on it. You’ll find a “Join the discussion” button at the end of each article and you can see our full list of articles at this link.

I hope you’ll leave a comment — now that's something I’ve wanted to say for some time!

David Travis

Feature article: How to create personas your design team will believe in

Does your organisation use personas to describe users' characteristics, goals, needs and behaviours? Although they are a popular tool for communicating knowledge about users, many personas are little more than anecdote, hearsay and rumour. These kind of fake personas rapidly fall into disuse. Make sure your own personas get used by validating them against this 7-item checklist. Read the article in full: How to create personas your design team will believe in.

Updated resource: Measuring satisfaction: Beyond the usability questionnaire

Our popular article on the Microsoft Desirability Toolkit was published back in March last year and contains an Excel spreadsheet to generate a word list of over 100 adjectives. We've now updated the spreadsheet with an analysis function that lets you generate a word cloud of the results, so you can present your findings to the design team with lots of word cloud goodness. Download the resource: Measuring satisfaction: Beyond the usability questionnaire.

Usability Training: Now Booking

If you're interested in personas, you'll love these courses we have coming up where we talk about persona research and creation.

Contextual Inquiry, September 30, London

For people in design teams who need to base their designs on reality, not assumptions, "Contextual inquiry: how to plan, execute and analyse a site visit" is a 1-day seminar that teaches delegates how to get the most from a field visit to a customer location. Unlike academic courses, delegates on this seminar carry out their own study and so learn the practicalities of contextual inquiry on the job. More information about this training course: Contextual Inquiry training.

Web Usability, October 20-21, London

For web designers who want hands-on experience with usability tools and techniques, "Web Usability" is a 2-day immersion seminar that shows delegates how to boost sales and conversion rates, increase usage and improve customer satisfaction. Unlike shorter introductory courses, this in-depth workshop covers the entire design and development lifecycle. More information about this training course: Web Usability training.

Intranet Usability, November 24-25, London

For intranet developers who want to help employees find and use content quickly and easily, "Intranet Usability" is a 2-day immersion seminar that gives delegates hands-on experience with several usability tools and techniques. Unlike web usability courses, this intranet-specific workshop contains examples of award-winning intranets for delegates to compare their own intranet against. More information about this training course: Intranet Usability training.

User Experience quotation of the month

"There are only two things of importance. One is the customer, and the other is the product. If you take care of the customer, he comes back. If you take care of the product, it doesn’t come back." — Stanley Marcus.

Hungry for more?

Read previous newsletters.


Foundation Certificate in UX

Gain hands-on practice in all the key areas of UX while you prepare for the BCS Foundation Certificate in User Experience. More details

Download the best of Userfocus. For free.

100s of pages of practical advice on user experience, in handy portable form. 'Bright Ideas' eBooks.

UX newsletter

Every month, we share an in-depth article on user experience with over 10,000 newsletter readers. Want in? Sign up now and download a free guide to usability test moderation.

Newsletter archive

Look back over previous newsletters in the newsletter archive.

Real-time Twitter feed


Our services

Let us help you create great customer experiences.

Upcoming courses

We run regular training courses in usability and user experience.

Get free email updates

Join the thousands of other people who get their monthly fix of user experience insights from Userfocus and get a free guide to usability test moderation.